Calgary cancer survivor upset as visa delays thwart celebration of life trip to Australia

A woman from Calgary says she was recently denied entry to Australia because she had cancer.

Kaitlin Norton beat brain cancer but says she couldn't overcome strict rules for travel Down Under

Kaitlin Norton was in Australia in 2012 when she was diagnosed with brain cancer, but her plan to go back to that country to celebrate her survival was thwarted by a visa problem. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

A woman from Calgary who beat cancer is upset after delays to her visa application thwarted a celebratory trip to Australia.

Kaitlin Norton planned the trip with her family as a way to mark the fact she survived brain cancer after years of treatment.

Norton wanted to go to Australia because that's where she was when she was diagnosed in 2012.

She applied for an Electronic Travel Authority — a short-term visa electronically linked to a passport — on March 18, and on March 24, hours before she was scheduled to board her flight, found out that visa had been denied.

"Originally I thought that this must be a mistake and that it will get sorted out, which is why they, my family, carried on," she said.

"And then when I received the email saying that it was because I had cancer that I wasn't going to be able to go, it was heart-breaking."

Not enough information

A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection told CBC News that Norton had not yet provided all the information officials needed in order to grant her a visa.

"While the Department is sympathetic to Ms. Norton's personal circumstances, at no stage has she been refused a visa," the spokesperson said in an email.

"Having a health condition does not necessarily prevent the grant of a visa, however, further assessment may be required, as was the case with Ms. Norton."

Applicants should not make firm travel plans until they have been told their visa has been granted, the official added.

Norton applied for another category of visa — the Visitor (subclass 600) visa — on March 27, and on March 30, received a reply, asking for a note from her doctor saying she is well enough to travel. It also noted Visitor (subclass 600) visas can take up to four weeks to process.

Norton says she got the letter — and had adequate health travel insurance — but wouldn't have been able to submit it in time, as her family would only be in Australia until April 14, so she opted to cancel her trip. 

Wanted to celebrate her survival

"I just wanted to celebrate my survival and my [family] ... ended up in Australia trying to celebrate with me, and I couldn't even make it there," she said. 

"All I want is an apology and an explanation, because there has to be an explanation."

Norton says she's paid $240 AUS on visa applications that have not been refunded.

The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection website states a $20 visa fee is non-refundable.


  • An earlier version of this story reported that Kaitlin Norton says she paid $20 AUS on a visa application that hasn't been refunded. Norton later clarified that she's spent a total of $240 AUS on visa applications that have not been refunded.
    May 04, 2017 1:09 PM MT

With files from Scott Dippel